Waterfront property Outer Banks, Rodanthe, NC style…


This vacation house is to be moved to higher ground on Tuesday. As you can see from the waves in the background, the wind is whipping offshore pushing out even this morning high tide…I now have a short NatGeo assignment to document this house move in Rodanthe for a story upcoming on rising sea levels..If this wind clocks around and comes onshore, then there may be no house to move since it is already sitting low on a truck bed now buried in the sand. Nature’s way, man’s folly. Stay tuned.

41 Responses to “Waterfront property Outer Banks, Rodanthe, NC style…”

  • Great shot.. well worth getting up early and freezing the.. uhmm.. fingers off to get it.. very curious to see the assignment develop before my eyes.. cool!

  • Great shot, great light. Keeping my fingers crossed, the moving of the house works out well ..

  • Got this post in my email this morning right next to this Google Ad in Gmail:

    “Waterfront Homes New Bern – http://www.tysongroup.info – New Bern NC waterfront properties Search homes on water, lots,& land”

    Don’t think I’ll be buying! LOL

    I’m kind of curious about the other homes, are they being left for the sea to claim or is there a more concerted effort to move all the homes?

    Nice shot. Light is great.

  • Nice shot. You sure were lucky to get this assignment as a big storm was heading up the eastern seaboard. The big waves and scary clouds illustrate an important part of the story. I just read that luck is deaf in the ear on the side people pray. The other ear hears the cacophony of the beating heart and tends to favor the bold and the passionate.

    We had a little springtime snow shower here, nothing special.

  • David:

    It was at Look3 in June that Maestro off-handedly made the comment that a good photograph contains some sort of mystery. This came as a thunderbolt of revelation to me; I don’t recall him ever mentioning this before, and I especially don’t recall that as being one of our workshop lessons. Up to this point, I’d been more concerned with good composition, story-telling and emotional depth as qualities of a good image learnt from Bruce. It was one of those things that for most people is so obvious a consideration; I felt like kicking myself in the ass for not realizing it on my own.

    Since June, attempting to understand what makes up mystery in a work has become something of an obsession for me, so I’m really excited to see this is a major concern and driving force in your present work. Right from the start, looking for mystery in an image works wonders as an editing tool; it realy quickens which images work and which don’t (both for my own and for others). A great way to be more objective and faster when making a judgement call.

    The more one thinks about it, the more one realizes that the undefinable – ie., mystery – is found all along the photograph’s life – from the moment of inception all the way to its place in history. Subject matter; photographer; technique; the triangular relationship between image, photographer and viewer; the
    relationship of the public to the image. The undefinable is additive in nature.

    Anyway, it’s a lot for me to chew on and really too much to think about. I’m sensitive to the way photographers use technique as a means to introduce mystery to an image as a way to make the viewer unsettled, and as a way to make the viewer think just that much more about the image. There are plenty of photographers whose technique becomes the major, major source of the undefinable in a shot. When I become aware of the technique in the photographer’s oeuvre, it slowly sinks in that it is a bit of a cheat. It’s like, once I figure out the technique, the work becomes less mysterious.

    Make sense? Shouldn’t authorship be about what the author is attempting to say, or is the way he says it just as important? Is it the words, or the writing? Can a body of work become more profound simply by removing the mystery induced by the well-honed techniques of the photographer?

  • a civilian-mass audience

    wow…yellow sign…that’s what I call “organized society”…

    one day we might have those signs in Grecolandia too…one day…

  • GREAT SHOt! :)))

    great shot, great light (physical light that is all body, that’s what sings)….but, a note to MICHAL (not MW):

    MICHAL: let’s hope you go from Barbie to this one to see EXACTLY, why the Road Trips section of BURN is so wonderful…not only a great photograph, but just look at the composition: how the ‘waves’ of the flooding foregroun mirror/mimic/antagonize the angry waves in the background: the children (foreground) set free from the parents (the background pounding waves)…the tilt of the center-frame house mirroring the sign for the pedestrian…and what the fuck, that sign (in this context)…and that ever so slant (from water) of that house makes the house THE PEDESTRIAN…..etc….its all in the small details…

    now, those waves NEED to be ridden …

    a great great shot….NG cover? or at least a spread….

    back to teach

  • Jeff…

    Anders Petersen also always mentions great or simply good photos are those which offer more questions than answers. I wonder if this is common to all the arts in general?

  • Jeff

    Good questions.

    One of the reasons for the huge popularity of Hipstamatic type effects are exactly because popping a “treatment” onto a photo can confer intant mystery to it.

    Is that cheating? I think no more or less so than shooting with a polaroid, a Holga, or processing one’s film for high contrast and grain. I’ve got a friend who is obsessed with old processes, and does gum, platinum, and carbon prints. Not so instant mystery, but, more pure because it’s harder and takes longer? The mere act of shooting black and white introduces mystery.

    Wev’e had this discussion before. The fact that it is so easy in the digital age, to create these images and the fact that we are bombarded with them every day on facebook and elsewhere perhaps makes some folks tire of it all. I actually enjoy them, even though I do not shoot them. I’m too afraid I will be seduced by it and stop making photographs with my “real” cameras.

    In answer to your question wether what an author wants to say is more important than the way he says it, all I can only say is that it depends.

  • In Chiloé (http://bit.ly/Y0ORMo) they do it with neighbors, friends, family oxen and logs… Extreme nature, extreme folly…

  • Great assignment, superb timing and I love the shot. After being in Hawaii and finally seeing the big (but not giant) surf of the North Shore – and taking a few pictures of it, it is fun to see the North Carolina surf and the spray caused by the offshore wind.

    As I noted over recent Saturdays, to give myself more time for my work I am cutting back drastically on the internet – even Burn, which I now visit on Saturday’s only. Even my blog, which I am about to cut to once or twice a week.

    While nothing in the links that follow is so masterful as this and both posts have far too many pictures to pass the Burn standard, my son got married on a beach in Hawaii and I would like to share that wedding with anyone interested:


    I am back in Alaska’s far north now and I just finished a post about the transition between 80 something above in Hawaii to the -40’s in the Arctic. I found that Hawaii followed me back in a way I had never anticipated:


    See you in one week – maybe. Got a huge event to shoot next week and it will keep me going day and night and will leave me 200 percent exhausted, so I might not make it.

  • Lovely shot.

    I’m guessing the project that this house-moving vignette will ultimately appear in is about all the housing in fragile and rapidly changing shoreline environments, especially on the East Coast of the US, and whether it should be allowed, whether it is doomed, should government money be used to rebuild, or perhaps as NY’s Governor Cuomo has suggested, people should be bought out and the shoreline protected as a reserve.

    In stark contrast with much of the East Coast, most of the coastline of the state of Oregon is publicly owned and managed.

    Individual private property rights, many would argue, are the fundamental legal, political, and economic basis of western, and particularly Anglo-American, civilization. Something so pervasive that we almost take it for granted, even though property rights have never been pure or absolute… subject to eminent domain, underground exploitation, flyover rights, and any number of other infringements on the classic metaphor of a “bundle of sticks” (origin of the “fasces”) used to describe land rights. But the bigger questions, like should anyone actually own the seashore, or own land or water, are never asked. But in many other cultures and historic periods, private ownership of land and water were often the exception rather than the rule.

  • Buyer beware!

    What it comes down to is personal responsibility. The trend in vacation homes on Hatteras has been to be as close to the sea as possible. Get the ultimate ocean view. Rent it out and make money. Even when legal setbacks are not met, many “investors” are granted variances through county government.

    This particular house, Toes in the Sand, wasn’t built with that stipulation. But many are, only to collapse into the water. In this case, the answer is move it or loose it. Better hurry!

    The erosion rate on this beach is rated at about 14 to 16 feet annually. So why would you place your dream house there? David says it well… “man’s folly”.

  • I love this shot, and especially the big “Toes in the Sand” sign. So funny how we all have to name our beach houses, but this one is especially poignant.

    What’s really sad about this particular development is that the architectural style of these Mirlo Beach houses at the north end of Rodanthe is really interesting; it marries classic Outer Banks touches like board-and-batten siding and cedar shingled rooftops with almost fairy-tale vertical construction. And when you are driving down the beach road, through miles of uninhabited dune and national seashore, seeing these houses on the horizon feels like coming upon some Medieval village after a long journey through wild and dangerous territory.

    Unfortunately they were built on probably the most vulnerable spot on the Outer Banks: they sit right at the point where the strip of Hatteras Island bends slightly and exposes itself fully to the onslaught of the Atlantic, and also the point at which the island is closest to the Atlantic trench–which is why this spot is one of the most popular surf breaks in the area. Also, the island is less than a few dozen yards wide at this point: if you turned around, you would be looking at a hundred yards or so of marsh, which opens up into the sound.

    So yes, it was folly to built there, and all the local Rodanthites knew it and joked about it and now they’re all saying told you so…but somehow there is a sweet sadness to “man’s folly”, and I’m glad that NatGeo stuck David on this assignment because he’s a local boy and he gets it, and he also has the style to breathe life into the story. He gets the politics and the beauty and the sadness and all the things that go into this issue beyond the simple scientific thesis about global warming and rising oceans. There are lives being lived here, for better or for worse, castles made of sand, but whether folly or not we have made our stand, stuck our toes down in it, and relished the pounding rhythm of the ocean that will eventually wash us all away or drive us to higher ground.

  • If anyone’s interested, I finally got away from the archive work and did some walking around in the snow. You may have heard we got a light dusting. A few photos here. Not “covering the storm” photos. Just taking a walk.

    Bummed me out though. I got up early and started off towards the beach but got waylaid and ended up traveling in the opposite direction. Later saw that Federica Valabrega went where I’d planned and found some fantastic light and atmosphere that would have been perfect for my landscape style. Shows how luck operates,eh. Mighta coulda got an iconic photo. Ended up with just more walking around stuff.


    this is the problem down here…not really much of a plan for houses claimed by the sea….builders build these vacation rentals too close to the sea in the first place…great income…..you do not have to be a geologist to know these barrier islands MOVE..they are supposed to move around….anyone who actually lives here full time lives a bit back from the sea….there are about 7-12 totally derelict houses sitting at the edge of the sea…only this one is being moved this time although moving stuff around is not unusual here…hell, they moved the whole Hatteras lighthouse not so many years ago…

  • JEFF

    for sure both form and content are important….in what proportions depends on the artist…some are mostly about style, some mostly about content…sometimes(McLuhan) the medium is the message…sometimes the story is bigger than the teller….however, i think we can see that throughout art history, the power is indeed mostly in the telling….in clear weather, every single night is a starry night the exact same starry night for all of us everywhere, yet Vincent “told” it in a special way….a tree and some stars…not much of a story or content on the surface, yet the form becomes the content…the way of telling is IT…

    i think some photographers get very confused about style….they try to quantify it…they want to make “style” be about only light and/or composition which are really no more about style than is lens choice…

    in any case, you need a great story to tell or simply a great fantasy in your head AND you gotta get it DOWN…..the notes must be melodic….micro movements, split split second timing, and having an eye to see not only what is in the viewfinder but what is going on around…what may come in , what may go out…peripheral vision both literally and figuratively is the attribute to have going..

    and today for sure it is even becoming more important how pictures are USED….not even about the picture, but about its USE…JR for example is all about where the picture is….the picture changes its very meaning by where and how it is displayed….the actual picture means less than the WHOLE display ….which disappears…

    cheers, david

  • MW

    yes lucky…well i feel unlucky most of the time, but i sorta hide the bad luck, or get away from the bad luck by doing something else…i just play the odds.. figuring that if i just get up off my ass, that eventually i will get lucky!!! :)

  • PAUL

    i think what Anders says is true, and would apply to all the arts….no fun to give it all away…

    whomever came up with the idea that a picture was supposed to explain everything, should be shot at sunrise!!!

  • I’m happy they aren’t building rock revetments or concrete seawalls. Sometimes retreat really is the best option.

  • “anyone who actually lives here full time lives a bit back from the sea” That reminds me of what the local ni-Vanuatu people say about the holiday houses built by foreigners close to the sea. One day the big cyclone will come; just a matter of time…

  • David,

    That old Ford advert you did with the fellow on the a roof top… is that house still around? Is the roofer still around?

    Ever shifting sands, ever shifting lives, eh?

  • a strange migrations form… Everything Is Changing

  • a civilian-mass audience

    oh,yeah…”everything is changing”…evolution…

    I am still waiting for reports though…MR.JOHNG…and DAVIDB…AND ALL THE BURNIAN LADIES…
    ASAP,please report to your nearest “ROAD TRIP WINDOW”…

    Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

    I will be back.

  • Thodoris. Tried leaving comment at your site. Didn’t go through. So… Nice stuff! Liked 1 and 3 from cat shadows.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    Go THODORI !!!

    to ALL MY BURNIANS…keep reporting

    Good morning from Greece…and for the rest of you


  • fyi, the house got moved yesterday….i got up in a “cherry picker” with kind permission from the electric company guys and “got the shot” of the house coming down the road….not a “great picture” but just a good record of what happened….so i did my assignment ….now whether this ends up making the final cut for a long involved story on rising sea levels , i do not know…yet i must say i do get a pleasure from simply doing the best i can in any given situation…it took four days of talking, studying tide charts, and simply staying on the case to get my approximately three to four minutes of good shooting time…

  • “I want my pictures to make people think and question, even if it upsets them.”
    Sally Mann


    yes…both the house and the roofer are still around….Brian and i have remained friends ever since that Ford truck ad shoot…that sure was the perfect ad shoot job….no art directors on the scene and i was allowed to totally produce that ad….the beauty of it was of course the reality of it…a storm was really coming, he was really a roofer, and he really drove a Ford truck..oh sure, i had him nail down shingles a hundred times to get the light right etc, but we had a lot of fun doing that shoot….that was only a couple of blocks from the house move now…

    cheers, david

  • Looking at the photo today and how close the surf seemed to be even back then, I wondered if the house itself was in need of relocation.

    Glad to hear your shoot went well. Might see you in NY again this year. Thinking of crashing the after-party of your workshop. ;^}

    Chat soon.

  • Cool shot. First reaction was Edward Gorey (Addams Family, etc). What’s the story on the ones next door??


    all those houses along that beach line are condemned…the owner of this one just decided to take the expense of moving…the expense of moving that house was around 60k i think…yet this expense will be recovered quickly with summer rentals IF a new storm does not come along and wreak havoc again….


    well of course i would expect you to crash the after party again…that is what the after party is for!!

    cheers, david


    this particular NatGeo story is about rising sea levels, but yes the issues are all intertwined…..MOST of the shoreline along the barrier islands of Virginia and NCarolina are either owned by the Nature Conservancy or are National or State Parks…flying from where i am to New York for example and you would see mostly undeveloped coast…driving you will see many many miles of untouched shoreline and marsh…some of the shoreline is so protected you may not even walk there….and even most of the houses built along the shoreline are just fine….

    this particular spot where these houses were built in Rodanthe was a known really bad idea…mother nature wants an inlet to be made here, and will for sure make one…everybody with a brain know not to build here…greed….inlets come and go here as part of the natural moving process of a barrier island…geologically they are supposed to move and so the issue of beach erosion etc is natural and is not related to potential rising sea levels……people just aren’t supposed to live here that’s all…

    cheers, david

  • ALL,
    Pictures of the Year International is RIGHT NOW broadcasting live their judging process…
    Pretty interesting to watch…


  • DAVID LYNCH Talks about Photography…

    Although I don’t like his favorites I must admit I find his explanations pretty interesting…


  • not fluid but solid http://www.etrouko.com/stone.html re-landscaping again a whole new world

  • Paul, was looking forward to the Lynch clip…seems the clip was removed.
    Imants, love it.

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